SHAUN CONNOLLY: Women, children foot the bill
With the economy sinking faster than the Titanic, Captain Noonan issued the immortal order: “Women and children first!” — but, sadly, he meant first into the financial firing line, not the economic life boats. And so his masterplan for saving high income earners from a greater tax take was revealed: soak the mums and rob the kids.
The only reason Mr Noonan did not sound clapped-out was because no one bothered to applaud at all.
As he sat down after a 41-minute assault on women, the working poor, the medically dependent elderly, and young families, silence fell across the chamber as even Fine Gaelers sat on their hands.
The Labour benches looked particularly glum — hardly surprising considering party chairman Colm Keaveney admitted the Blueshirts “held a gun” to their heads to stop them getting higher taxes for top earners.
The Labourites looked as if Mr Noonan had just pulled the trigger, and then they had to squirm their way through a speech by their own man Brendan Howlin detailing all the cuts to students, pensioners, and women on maternity benefit.
In a cunning move to try and thwart another burst the of “age rage” that shook the Fianna Fáil government in 2008, Mr Howlin moved to cut off communication for pensioners by slashing home subsidy packages for lifeline telephone links to the tune of €61m.
Labour will be forever haunted by their election poster from just last year which was set out like a supermarket ad under the banner: “Every Little Hurts: What Fine Gael Has In Store With You.”
It warned without Labour to restrain them, Enda Kenny and his Blueshirt buddies would: bring in a €50 hike in car tax, raise Vat, put €1 on a bottle of wine, impose a water tax, raise tax on savings, and cut child benefit by €252 a year for a families with two children.
Now five of those predictions have come true, and the sixth, water charging arrives next year — all with Labour’s backing.
So, while Labour was telling the truth about what Fine Gael would do in power, they were certainly lying about being able, or indeed, willing to stop them.
A strangely subdued opposition sat through the double whammy smash and grab operation in a subdued state. There was a bit of a murmur over the child benefit slash, but the benches only really came alive twice — and on both occasions for Dáil goldfish bowl reasons.
One of the few Cabinet ministers missing from the set-piece parliamentary moment of the year was Mr Property Tax himself Phil Hogan. The Environment Minister, on a mission to save the planet summit in the sunny Persian Gulf.
Like Superman carrying a bit of holiday weight, “Big Phil” Hogan never tires of trying to save the Earth — why, it is only a few months since he flew down to Rio on our behalf, and at our expense, and battled climate change at a five star beach-front hotel.
Tabloid pictures of Big Phil seemingly enjoying the high life during his latest vital work for Ireland in the Gulf led to much guffawing in the chamber whenever the minister or his sinister tax were mentioned. Let’s hope he enjoys working on his tan in the Persian Gulf, because it is in the Credibility Gulf he will forever dwell when he finally returns home.
The other moment to bring the chamber to life was when Mr Howlin launched a blatantly partisan raid on the special allowances for independents as he cut general expenses by a minimal amount.
Backbench TDs will still get €92,000 — three times the average wage, and our Minister for Sport will pocket the same as Britain’s prime minister, €170,000.
Luckily, women and children are there to pick up the bill — every little hurts indeed.
© This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Thursday, December 06, 2012